Friday, 31 January 2014

Hiking Zaghouan: the Shepherds Pass

The Shepherds Pass

Distance: 13km
Hiking up: 770m
Hiking down: 770m
Level: moderate
Time: 4-5hrs
GPS Track

The Shepherds Pass route, with the top of the map north

This half a day hike is a little bit of everything that the Zaghouan Mountains has to offer. The lush canyons of the interior, the open plain with massive limestone walls on the south side (and sun!) connected by the most accessible pass in the range.

The south face of the Zaghouan Mountains

Start at the Temple des Eaux, the Roman site at the western end of town. This is a good place to park your car and have a drink at the start/finish of the walk. Follow the tar road eastwards, keeping as close to the mountains as possible. Essentially keep right. I tried to find a trail through the forest, but these were all dead-end. The tar road changes into a dirt track just after the left turn of to the centre (where you should go straight ahead yourself). At the next junction, stay right. The dirt track starts ascending, still through pine forest. The hiking is easy going. After roughly another 45 minutes you'll pass some impressive big, red limestone walls. Pass the village and try to stay close to the mountain (find a small trail that stays high up). It'll take another 30 minutes to the base of the Shepherds Pass. Further down is the huge wall that towers up to the summit of Jebel Zaghouan, the highest mountains in this range. The Shepherds Pass looks quite intimidating, but a trail goes all the way up the 950m pass. Great views on both sides are waiting for you!

The route down the pass, passing the bottom of the big ridge

Go down and stay on the right side of the valley. Several goat tracks zigzag down until you enter the forest. Gradually the trail gets wider and level. Follow this all the way to the road (which is a higher level than Temple des Eaux, at an altitude of 600m!). The farm is only a few hundred metres away. Behind the farm the "farm track", described in an earlier post, winds down to the lower level of the road. Backtrack the road eastwards. 200 metres after the car park (for the Climbing Canyon and Farm Track), turn right at a wide dirt track. This enables you to hike the last couple of km's off-road. At the wide clearance you can hike straight down to the cafe at the Temple des Eaux. Enjoy your well-deserved cuppa!

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